What even is a bold prediction? Given the unpredictable nature of the NHL these days, there really isn't a whole lot outside of the realm of possibility.
Last season, the Tampa Bay Lightning were one win short of an NHL regular-season record before being swept in the first round of the playoffs, the St. Louis Blues went from last place midway through the campaign to hoisting the Stanley Cup by the end of it, and Robin Lehner was nominated for the Vezina Trophy!
I have a feeling we're in for some more chaos this year, so let's get wild with these fearless value bets for the 2019-20 NHL season:
1. The Sharks win the Stanley Cup (25-1)
Erik Karlsson is healthy, players are taking discount deals to stay with the team, and the Sharks bring back pretty much the entirety of the core that reached the conference finals last season. So why is everyone writing them off? This is the year it all comes together for San Jose. They win the franchise's first Stanley Cup as Joe Thornton sails off into the sunset.
2. The Panthers win the Eastern Conference (9-1)
The Panthers already had an excellent core in place led by Hart Trophy candidate Aleksander Barkov, and now they finally have the goaltending after signing two-time Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky. Brett Connolly, Noel Acciari, and Anton Stralman provide excellent depth, but the greatest offseason acquisition was that of Joel Quenneville. The three-time Stanley Cup-winning coach is the man to finally put it all together for the perennially underachieving Panthers.
3. The Hurricanes win the Metro Division (4-1)
One of the best teams over the second half of last season, the Hurricanes are incredibly deep on the back end, and the Jake Gardiner signing proves to be a bargain. Andrei Svechnikov doubles his goal tally in his sophomore season, while Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen take another leap forward in their development. Rod Brind'Amour is an excellent coach, and I think Carolina gets a strong season out of Petr Mrazek.
4. The Canucks make the playoffs (9-5), Flames miss the playoffs (2-1), Jets miss the playoffs (10-13)
The future is incredibly bright for the Canucks with Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, and Quinn Hughes, but so is their present. Jacob Markstrom holds down the fort before Thatcher Demko takes over with a monster second half between the pipes to sneak Vancouver into the playoffs for the first time since 2014-15, becoming the only Canadian team in the Western Conference to make the playoffs.
The Flames regress after getting career years from Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm, and Mark Giordano, while neither Cam Talbot nor David Rittich take the reigns in net.
Dustin Byfuglien will likely suit up at some point this season, but the Jets need every minute they can get from him after losing Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers, and Ben Chiarot this offseason. Defensive depth is a massive issue for Winnipeg, which struggled down the stretch last season. That's a harbinger of things to come in 2019-20.
5. The Penguins miss the playoffs (8-5)
While many teams around them improved, the Penguins have to rely on an erratic Alex Galchenyuk and an overpaid Brandon Tanev to replace the offensively gifted Phil Kessel. Depth is lacking on the Penguins, which is even more concerning given the recent injury history of ageing stars Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang. They barely made the postseason last year. This time around, for the first time since 2005-06 - Sidney Crosby's rookie season - Pittsburgh misses the playoffs. The Flyers finish third in the Metro, behind the Hurricanes and Capitals.
6. The Coyotes make the playoffs (6-5)
The Coyotes would've made the playoffs last year if not for injuries. Things are different this season: Phil Kessel brings his penchant for goals to the desert, Clayton Keller takes another step forward, they get a full season from Nick Schmaltz and Jason Demers, and Antti Raanta's return to health gives them a significantly underrated goalie tandem with Darcy Kuemper. With Rick Tocchet coaching up a storm, Arizona gets back to the playoffs for the first time since 2011-12, ending the league's second-longest playoff drought.
7. The Devils miss the playoffs (10-11), Islanders miss the playoffs (1-1), Rangers miss the playoffs (2-3)
New York and offseason hype go together better than Evgeny Kuznetsov and ... never mind. The New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers are moving in the right direction, and they'll be playoff teams again in a New York minute, but it's too soon for them. Goaltending holds the Devils back, while the Rangers are too weak down the middle to be taken seriously. Regression is inevitable for the New York Islanders, who deserve to miss the playoffs for kicking Robin Lehner to the curb. For the first time since 1965-66, no New York area team makes the NHL playoffs.
8. The Blues miss the playoffs (5-2)
I have nothing but respect and admiration for Blues coach Craig Berube. But in a tough Central Division, with a target on their backs, I don't see how Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington is able to sustain anything close to a 1.89 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage. He didn't even manage those numbers in the AHL. The Richmond Hill, Ontario native takes a step back as St. Louis struggles to find the consistency that got them to the playoffs last year, and finish fifth in the strongest division in hockey.
9. Nathan MacKinnon wins the Hart (14-1)
I can't say enough great things about MacKinnon. From his attitude to his ability, he's exactly the guy you want leading your team. McKinnon goes scorched earth on the NHL, finishing with a career-best 111 points, and the Avalanche, armed with their best roster in over 15 years, finish atop the Central Division.
10. Erik Karlsson wins the Norris (8-1)
Finally healthy, Karlsson finishes the season with a career-high 84 points and helps the Sharks finish atop the NHL, winning the award for the third time in his career. In doing so, he edges out compatriots Victor Hedman and John Klingberg, as three Swedish-born players are nominated for the Norris for the first time ever.
11. John Gibson wins the Vezina (26-1)
I'm higher on the Anaheim Ducks than most. They won't make the playoffs, but they'll be competitive. John Gibson is a big reason why, posting a career-best 2.05 GAA and .936 SV%. Gibson joins Bobrovsky (2012-13) as the only other goalie in the NHL's modern era to win the Vezina despite their team missing the playoffs.
12. Matthews wins the Rocket Richard (14-1)
In one of the most fascinating Rocket Richard races in years, Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews narrowly edges out Alex Ovechkin and Alex DeBrincat, as three players score 50 goals for the first time since 2009-10. Matthews plays 80 games for the first time since his rookie season and hits the 50-goal mark for the first time in his career. Matthews pots two in the final game of the season to finish with 52 goals, while Ovechkin tallies 51 for a second consecutive season, and DeBrincat reaches the landmark for the first time in his young career.
Alex Moretto is a sports betting writer for theScore. A journalism graduate from Guelph-Humber University, he has worked in sports media for over a decade. He will bet on anything from the Super Bowl to amateur soccer, is too impatient for futures, and will never trust a kicker. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.
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